Lecrae is kind of a big deal. He’s appeared on The Tonight Show multiple times, has been nominated and won several awards (including being the first rapper to win the BET Award for Best Gospel Artist), and his 2014 album, Anomaly, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, Rap, Digital, Christian, Gospel and Independent charts. That’s pretty impressive.
It also means that Christians don’t really know what to do with him.
Many of us have a hard time with the whole “Christian rap” thing (as in, not being sure it’s actually a thing). Others who are so entrenched in the Christian subculture are concerned that as he grows in popularity, he’s going to “go soft” on Jesus. And then there are people like me. I don’t believe rap music is inherently sinful, but there’s not a lot I really enjoy.[1. Though I do love me a little Run DMC around Christmastime.] As for Lecrae’s music itself, as was once said about Sting, “The music he’s created over the years, I don’t really listen to it, but the fact that he’s making it, I respect that.”[2. Any day I get to use a Zoolander reference is a good day.]
(Kidding. Kind of.)
In truth, I’ve only heard a handful of his songs. What I’ve heard has been well done, his faith is unmistakable, but it’s not what you’d expect from a Christian artist. He doesn’t fit whatever stereotype or caricature comes to mind when we think “Christian artist”. And this also is what I appreciate about his first book, Unashamed—this reality that if you’re a Christian, you’re not really going to fit in. In fact, as he writes, being a Christian “means not fitting in and the only solution is learning to look to God for ultimate recognition . . . if you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection” (9).
The search for acceptance
This is not a pat truism for Lecrae–this struggle with acceptance is what we see all throughout the book. Abandoned by his father, Lecrae was constantly trying to find his fit. To find acceptance, whether through machismo, girls, partying, and rap culture.
Hip-hop gave me hope that even though I felt alone, I wasn’t. It reminded me that there was a difference in the value people ascribe to you and your actual worth. It told me that my pain was valid. That even though I wasn’t speaking of my struggles, they were worth discussing. And at a time when I didn’t feel heard or seen, hip-hop made me feel significant. (21)
Switch out hip-hop with your subculture of choice, and this would probably speak to your experience as well. For me, growing up as a nerdy, shy, unathletic, uncoordinated, “husky” child, my subculture was comic books. The Marvel vs DC wars, the number of comics in your collection, and the number of fanboy letters you had published in your favorite books[3. I had one in Steel #13, if I remember correctly.] were your street cred. (Unfortunately, no one told us girls were wildly unimpressed by such things.)
And Christians aren’t immune to this, either. I know people who faked speaking in tongues as teens just to “get it over with”. I know kids who are concerned about whether or not they brought their Bibles to church, but aren’t too worried about reading them at home. I know people who are super-busy and super-generous, but are super-distant from God.
And the trappings of these alternate forms of acceptance don’t satisfy. They don’t deal with the temporal cause of our acceptance issues, nor do they deal with their spiritual root. They become our identities, false faces that prevents people from seeing who we really are and what we really need.
Why we need to speak of brokenness
The fact is, our brokenness—the fruit of our own sin and the consequences of the sins committed against us—needs to be dealt with. And one of the ways we can do that, helpfully, is by speaking of it openly. By that, I don’t mean by glorying in our sin and shame, or by making a big deal of all the “fun” we used to have.
Instead, we should strive to speak of it the way Lecrae consistently does in this book—openly, honestly but repentantly. He doesn’t write of acting out what the sexual abuse he experienced as a child taught him as one who is proud, but as one who knows his brain was rewired by the trauma he experienced (27-30). As one who knows firsthand that, “if you ignore your wounds, they will not go away” (30).
“Sports, sex, substances and soul-searching had all failed to bring me the fulfillment I wanted,” he writes (56). He needed something more. And just as he kept running back to the same false hopes to heal him, Lecrae keeps running back to the same point in this book (and rightly so). We need more than pat answers—we need to be willing to show our scars to the world. He writes,
Talking about wounds is important, but talking about our healed wounds is just as important. Because scars are the evidence that wounds can heal. That wounds don’t last forever. That healing is possible. (36)
Lecrae’s story of identity (and ours)
And eventually, that more did come in the form of faith in Jesus Christ. Which, of course, means the story’s over and everything is awesome, right? Well, not so much. See, even when Lecrae’s faith took root, he still struggled with his identity. Being a Christian rapper didn’t help with that, to some degree. He is a hip-hop artist who is unashamedly Christian, but he doesn’t fit neatly in either world.
Kind of like the rest of us, if we’re being honest. While Unashamed is Lecrae’s story, it’s also our own. We, too, struggle with acceptance. We struggle with pride. We have been wounded and wound others. We don’t neatly fit in any box.
We are outsiders in the world, to the glory of God.
But we are more than that. We are outsiders, true; but we are children unconditionally loved by our heavenly Father. We are sinners who have “been rescued from [our] brokenness and called to glorify the One who has never left [our] side” (187). That is who Lecrae is, and that is who you and I are, as well. These are truths you and I may already know, but we can never know them so well as to not need to hear them once again. And I am thankful for the reminder I’ve received reading this book.
Author: Lecrae Moore (with Jonathan Merritt)
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Buy it at: Amazon